William D. Shepard, Ph.D.
I’m a Clinical Psychologist in private practice. I was a founding partner of Simonsen+Shepard Behavioral Health, an office-based outpatient psychology clinic in Dallas, TX. Today, through my parent company, SPIRIS Group LLC, I work with adults aged 18+, and I assess, diagnose and treat a variety of mental and behavioral health disorders. I also treat less serious but very common problems people have with the way they think about themselves, and how they think about and interact with the world around them. After serving the Dallas community for nearly two decades as a partnership, in mid-2019, my former business partner, Dr. Gregory Simonsen, and I amicably separated our practice, and are now providing services independently
In 2001, I graduated from The University of North Texas Robert B. Toulouse School of Graduate Studies with a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Clinical Psychology. The graduate clinical psychology program at UNT was firmly rooted in the “scientist-practitioner model” of training clinical psychologists, meaning they sought to develop psychologists who were equally skilled as both clinical scientists and as practitioners. The American Psychological Association (APA) classifies three training models for clinical psychologists—bench scientist, scientist-practitioner, or scholar-practitioner—and UNT’s was my best fit. (CLICK HERE FOR MORE FROM APA) Among the countless things I learned in graduate school, UNT’s program taught me how to think critically and analytically about psychological research, and how to then successfully implement its practice in a clinical setting. Here’s a link to my doctoral dissertation if you’re interested: (DISSERTATION)
After graduate school I entered the Geriatrics Psychology fellowship at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. In my two and one-half years in the post-doctoral fellowship there, I studied and trained in the broad field of geriatrics mental health care, research on a multitude of issues affecting the elderly, and the neuropsychological assessment of memory disorders and other types of cognitive impairment.
Today, I’m a Licensed Psychologist (LP) through the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychology (TSBEP). The LP designation is a doctoral-level license for the independent practice of psychology in Texas. At the time I was granted that designation, it meant an LP had: earned a doctoral degree in psychology from an APA-certified training program at a regionally-accredited educational institution; completed an APA-approved pre-doctoral internship comprising 1,750 hours of supervised training experience; completed a TSBEP-approved post-doctoral fellowship comprising an additional 1,750 hours of supervised training experience (so, 3,500 hours total); scored a passing grade on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), a nationally-standardized exam for psychologists wanting to practice in one of the sub-specialties requiring a license; scored a passing grade on the TSBEP Jurisprudence Exam; and finally, got a passing score on the dreaded TSBEP Oral Exam, where licensure candidates go before a panel of licensed psychologists, are given a few minutes to review details of a randomly-assigned case scenario, and then are questioned about all aspects of psychological care as they would pertain to that particular case. In short, there is much time and there are many hurdles involved in becoming a licensed psychologist in Texas!
In addition to the LP, I’m also credentialed as a Health Service Psychologist (HSP), a distinction meaning I have the training and experience to provide psychological services, like prevention and consultation, assessment, and treatment, in healthcare settings. I also have experience in teaching psychology at the post-secondary educational level, having taught coursework in abnormal psychology as a college adjunct for more than seven years.
If you want to know more about my practice, feel free to follow the links below or to the right. If you have questions or need additional information, feel free to contact me via our contact page above.
I have two general areas of specialization in my office-based practice: psychotherapy, and assessment.
Psychotherapy, also sometimes called “talk therapy” or, simply, “therapy,” can be for individuals, couples, or groups. I use elements and techniques from a variety of theoretical perspectives I believe are the most valid and useful for making psychotherapy beneficial, and the technique I use most often is cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT). As the most commonly utilized approach to treating mental and behavioral health problems, CBT’s premise is that faulty thoughts lead to maladaptive behaviors. In other words, if we can change the way we think, often we can change the way we behave. I also combine CBT with humanistic and existentialist techniques. Humanistic psychology is geared toward helping people identify and then realize their full potential in life, in an environment of unconditional positive regard or, as I call it, a “no-judgment zone.” Humanistic techniques pair perfectly with existentialist psychology, which is geared toward helping people look at a bigger-picture or whole-person perspective of their lives, accept that life is finite and therefore should never be taken for granted, and then use that awareness to plan where to go, what to do, and who to be in life. When I think it’ll be beneficial, I sometimes incorporate other perspectives into psychotherapy as well, including psychodynamic techniques, family systems theory, social learning, positive psychology, and mindfulness.
Men’s issues. Let’s face it…men are reluctant to seek help. When we have a mental or behavioral health problem like depression, anxiety, or out-of-control anger, we’re less likely than women to seek help at all, more likely to use alcohol/marijuana/recreational drugs to cope, and often delay seeking help until we’re in crisis. If we do seek help, we may be reluctant to talk to other men about our problems, and get advice and suggestions that may not work well for us from those who don’t really understand us fully. Even if we don’t have a serious mental or behavioral health problem, men can still struggle with a variety of issues unique to being male, like traditional definitions of masculinity, expectations or demands of achievement and success, and stereotyped beliefs about what men really think and feel, both in relationships and life in general. Psychotherapy with a professional who understands these experiences from your unique perspective can be tremendously beneficial.
While I’m far less experienced and well-versed in the nuances of women’s issues, I’m strongly pro-feminist. Pro-feminist men are those who support most every element of the women’s movement, but who don’t take a direct leadership role for women’s issues; we’re more advocates. Pro-feminist men: recognize that women still suffer many kinds of injustices and inequalities; acknowledge that the current, dominant model of traditional manhood has been and continues to be oppressive to women (but damaging to men as well); and advocate for both these groups to support and promote social progress and cultural change.
Gay and lesbian issues. Most empirical research, even from studies done within the last decade, continues to show a higher occurrence of mental and behavioral health problems among gay men and lesbian women than in the general population. In decades past, researchers used to believe this was because of something to do with sexual orientation itself. Nowadays, we know better: being gay or lesbian in itself isn’t a problem…it’s being gay or lesbian in a culture of prejudice, discrimination, harassment, abuse, social exclusion, and possible family rejection that causes significantly higher rates of mental and behavioral health problems in general, and substance abuse in particular. Being HIV+ can create a unique set of problems with experiencing prejudice and feeling social isolation—even within the gay community. Regardless of someone’s HIV status, there are additional problems with encountering lack of training or understanding about gay and lesbian issues among some mental or behavioral health providers, as well as the overall burden of stigma and bias that often goes with having a mental or behavioral health problem in the first place. But whatever issues and concerns you bring to psychotherapy, you’ll find our practice to be a safe, supportive, understanding and helpful environment.
Substance Abuse. One thing we know for certain…Americans abuse all kinds of drugs. In 2017—the last year for which we have a fully-analyzed data set—47.7 million Americans aged 12 and over had abused one or more drugs (“abuse” was defined as using any illegal drug, or abusively misusing any legal prescription drug). Looking at lifetime use of drugs, in this case illegal drugs only, a whopping 130.6 million Americans aged 12 and over reported having used one or more illegal drugs. This second number is even more astounding because lifetime abusive misuse of legal prescription drugs wasn’t even counted; it was believed there’d been so much underreporting of this type of abuse that the resulting data was useless.
I’m an advocate of any program that’s been shown—through evidence-based research—to be effective in helping people get sober from a drug they’ve been addicted to, or learn to moderate and reduce the use of any substance they’ve been abusing. The U.S. government’s traditional “War on Drugs” approach to controlling substance abuse—involving scare tactics, threats, stiff penalties even for minor drug-related charges, and uneven enforcement of existing/new drug laws—simply doesn’t work, having been shown time and again to be ineffective. For substance abuse prevention and treatment, I advocate and use education, peer support, moderation management, and harm reduction, all of which have proven effective in reducing substance abuse and helping prevent addiction and dependency. If you’re seeking outpatient treatment for a substance abuse problem, we’ll collaborate on creating a customized program that’s evidence-based and that I think will most likely work for you; I don’t use one-size-fits-all approaches. The program we create for you will depend on many factors: the type of substance you’re abusing; the severity of your abuse; how strong your physical addiction is; the consequences you’ve experienced; how strong your psychological dependence is; how many times you’ve already tried to cut down or quit; whether the substance you’re abusing involves low or high redose compulsion, etc. Some people find that 12-step or abstinence-based programs like AA/NA/CMA, SMART Recovery, or SOS are required if they’re seeking complete sobriety. And for some, complete sobriety is the only option. Others, trying to reduce their substance use or avoid becoming dependent on/addicted to a substance, may find programs like moderation management or harm reduction to be the most helpful. Whether it’s education, moderation and control, or complete sobriety, these same approaches can work with process addictions as well.
Process addictions. Substance abuse involves chemicals, either natural or synthesized, that affect the brain, alter behavior, and may produce both physical addiction and psychological dependence. A process addiction, on the other hand, involves: obsessive thinking about a behavior that can result in significant negative consequences; strong psychological dependence on the behavior; the possibility of a perceived physical addiction to the behavior; and, a strong, compulsive drive to engage in the same behavior repeatedly and excessively. These compulsive and excessive drives and behaviors commonly involve things like sex, gambling, eating, pornography, spending money, or even romantic relationships. Often, substance abuse and process addictions go hand-in-hand. But many of the techniques that help with substance abuse can help with process addictions as well.
Anxiety and Depression. These two scourges are listed together because when we see one, we almost always find the other. Anxiety-based disorders are the most common group of mental or behavioral health problems in the U.S., affecting close to 20% or 40+ million Americans at any given time. Because they’re so common, we know a lot about and have a lot of ways to treat anxiety disorders. And yet, only about one-third of those with an anxiety-based disorder actually seek treatment for it! Anxiety disorders in particular almost always involve cognitive distortions, which are faulty ways of thinking, both about ourselves and our interactions with the world around us. Many different treatments are effective for reducing symptoms of anxiety, diminishing or eliminating cognitive distortions, and lessening the toll both can take on everyday life.
Close to 19 million Americans, over 8% of the U.S. population, will have some form of depression in any given year. It’s the leading cause of disability among adults up to about age 44. And about half of all Americans who meet the diagnostic criteria for depression will also meet the diagnostic criteria for an anxiety-based disorder at the same time. But as with anxiety, we also have many effective treatments for depression. Cognitive distortions are common in depression as well. But in most cases, depression and anxiety both respond really well to similar types of psychotherapy and, if necessary, to medication prescribed by a medical provider.
I have a variety of other issues that I help treat in psychotherapy. Bipolar Disorder, and its milder yet still troublesome relative, Cyclothymic Disorder, seem to be diagnosed nowadays more than ever. Although the mild-to-severe mood swings that are the classic markers of these disorders typically require medication management, the problems the mood swings can create, as well as the difficulties personally experiencing the mood swings, often respond well to psychotherapy. Workplace and Career Issues can be varied, but specific problems I encounter most often are things like: conflicts and personality clashes between co-workers; employees who feel unsupported, unappreciated and used by management; worries about being undermined by colleagues or actually blocked from career progress; and, bigger, existential questions about whether someone is even in the right career field, or might not be missing their calling by not doing something entirely different for work. Aging Issues are a frequent topic discussed in psychotherapy, as large numbers of Generation Xers and, to a lesser extent, younger Baby Boomers are considering the existential, meaning-of-life-and-legacy issues that none of us thought about in our first few decades of life! Also, older Gen Xers and younger Boomers are, in large numbers, now dealing with issues related to caring for aging parents, and the strains and frustrations, coupled with the fulfillment and joy, that these issues involve. With increasing frequency, I’m encountering in psychotherapy the unique concerns and problems of the Millennial Generation. Although solidly Gen X myself, I have come to know Millennials as a widely misunderstood and, in part, unfairly maligned generation. Now the largest and most influential demographic of the American adult population, Millennials are just now beginning what will be a multi-decade dominance of American culture, and with that, similar and unique problems that both bind and separate Millennials from previous generations of Americans.
Assessment is always conducted individually, in an office setting and on a one-to-one basis. Assessment is beneficial for a variety of reasons. Many mental and behavioral health problems are misdiagnosed by medical providers who, while well meaning, rarely have the training and experience necessary to accurately distinguish among different mental or behavioral health problems that share similar symptoms. Then there’s the associated cost, to the patient, to an insurance company if one is involved, and even to the medical provider, of treating the wrong disorder. Money ends up being wasted and time being lost while waiting for a patient to respond to medication or other medical interventions that aren’t helping and actually might be harmful. A well-constructed and properly administered comprehensive assessment can help prevent many of these errors.
The types of assessments I do are varied. I regularly assess adults for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a problem that’s been seen more often in recent years. It has become more widely understood as not just a disorder of childhood, but something that can persist throughout the adult lifespan. ADHD also can be overdiagnosed by medical providers, having been misdiagnosed as ADHD when it’s actually a problem with, say, anxiety or depression. I also assess general Memory Disorders, especially those seen in older adults. Impaired memory functioning is caused by things like anxiety or depression, but also by head injury, undiagnosed stroke, a degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s, or by numerous other things. These are all examples of why it’s so important to know what the problem isn’t as to know what the problem is, so that the proper issue is being treated. I provide assessment of the psychological components of physical health, important to understand for someone about to undergo certain medical procedures, like weight reduction surgery. The medical provider will want to know beforehand if there are any psychological problems that might complicate treatment compliance after surgery, especially when there’s going to be a long recovery period. Occasionally, I do brief vocational assessment with those I’m already working with in psychotherapy, especially if part of their problems relate to uncertainty about or dissatisfaction with their careers.
Regardless of the reasons necessary for assessment, when doing so I use only standardized psychological tests and measures that have strong psychometric properties. In other words, I will only use assessment tools that’ve been proven to validly measure what they’re designed to measure, that reliably produce the same result over time if the same factor is measured repeatedly, and that clearly distinguish between different types of problems that are found. Assessment is time consuming and can be expensive, but what is learned from it often is invaluable.